Considered by many Liberians who were at the hearing as a delay ‘Tactics’ on the part of Liberian Government to forfeit its financial obligation with the Prestige and Alliance Motors Corporation in the settlement of over Ten Million United States Dollars owed, at today’s hearing, the legal team representing the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning has again failed to appear.
Today at 10am, the Chief Judge of the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice, Eva Mappy Morgan was set to have render a legal decision in the case: Prestige Motors Corporation and the Alliance Motors Corporation, two of the member companies of the Haddad Group of Companies (Plaintiff) Versus the Government of the Republic of Liberia, represented by the Ministers of Finance and Justice (Defendant) ‘Action of Debt’.
But unfortunately, the legal team of the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning which was expected to form part of today’s trial did not show up instead sent in flimsy excuses, blaming their absence at the trial on illnesses and other ‘unforeseen circumstances ’ .
Appearing on behalf of the Liberian Government, Cllr. Augustine Fayah from the Ministry of Justice who took the stand also pray the Court to allow the excuse given his counterparts from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MDFP) to consider it and reschedule the trial of the case to another date, noting that their presence during the trial will enhance the effectiveness of the case.
For his part, the lead lawyer representing the legal interest of Mr. Haddad and his Group of Companies, Cllr. G. Moses Paegar resisted the motion filed by Cllr. Fayah for the trial to be rescheduled, noting that such motion from the legal team of the defendant was a ploy aimed at frustrating and hijacking justice, and therefore, prayed to the Court to deny their request.
However, after a five minutes break called by the Chief Judge, it was resolved that the case in question be reschedule for the 1st of December, 2017, noting that “Failure on the part of the defendants’ legal team to appear in court on that day, judgment will be rendered against it by default.”
The yearlong running trial was a result of the Prestige and Alliance Motors lawsuit against the Liberian Government for its alleged failure to settle financial indebtedness to the companies in the amount of US$10.7 million for vehicles and spare parts supplied from 2003 to March 2008, but are yet to receive any payment, which case has been at the Commercial Court for almost seven years. The principal debt of US$10.7 Million will now have been accumulating interest and reached the tune of US$36 Million
The decision to resume the case comes two months to the end of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration. She is expected to use the money and pay back her government’s inherited debt, and many of the companies the government is allegedly indebted do not want their debts to go unpaid.
The Haddad case was forced to be suspended when Chief Judge Eva Mappy Morgan denied state lawyers’ contention that her court lacked legal jurisdiction over the case.
The lawyers’ argument at that time was that the Commercial Court was established in 2010, and therefore lacked jurisdiction to hear cases beyond 2010.
It was based on that argument that Judge Morgan, in a ruling then, said, “the act that established the Commercial Court in 2010 gives it jurisdiction to handle all commercial matters without intimidation.”